Reporter David Flynn is on his way to Little Egypt. He wants to see how feelings run a year after the Herrin massacre, and it’s a good opportunity to pay his respects to Amy, the widow of his old mentor. Amy’s boarding house, where Flynn will stay, is full of eccentric characters, from the matronly Mrs Hoyt and her daughter Joan to the local doctor, Pearson. And then there’s Julian and his grandfather, who travel the small towns putting on shows where Julian pretends to talk to spirits.
Nobody in the small Illinois town really wants to talk about the massacre, but they are quite keen to gossip about the mysterious murders of several local women. It’s a scandal that Julian puts himself right in the middle of with the prediction of another murder, but it’s all just an act, isn’t it? Flynn doesn’t believe in ghosts, but there’s something about Julian that both attracts and repels him.
“The Dark Farewell” is a rather tasty little mystery set in the mid-1920s. It’s prohibition, and not a good time to be a gay man in a small town. You have to be discreet, which is one of the many things that Julian is not. The author has a penchant for setting up his main characters so that at least one of them has a strong dislike for the other, and in this story it serves him quite well. Flynn takes an instant dislike to Julian, and not without good reason. Watching the two men getting to know one another enough for love to blossom seems a lot more realistic than the over-used “made for each other” romance.
The mystery itself is quite good, and typical of Lanyon. You will probably figure out whodunit a little before Flynn does, but there are enough good red herrings along the way to distract you and make you doubt your conclusions. The conclusion is actually quite abrupt, but things do get resolved cleanly, if all too conveniently. It leaves you feeling a bit dissatisfied. A little bit of an epilogue might have been nice. Still, this is a very good historical mystery which at under 200 pages in print makes for a nice read.
“The Dark Farewell” is available from Amazon.